Kentucky state trooper killed in shooting, suspect sought

EDDYVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky state trooper who had been on the force less than a year was killed in a shooting during a chase in western Kentucky and authorities were searching Monday morning for a suspect.

Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder, 31, was conducting a traffic stop Sunday night around 10:20 p.m. on Interstate 24 when the driver fled, Kentucky State Police said in a news release.

A chase ensued with the suspect stopping abruptly, causing the trooper's vehicle to "make contact" with the rear of the suspect's vehicle, the news release said.

The driver then fired several shots into Ponder's police cruiser, hitting him several times. Ponder was taken to a hospital in Princeton, Kentucky, where he died shortly before midnight, the release said.

The suspect, who police say fled the scene on foot, has been identified as 25-year-old Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks of Missouri. He was described as a black male who's about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing about 140 pounds.

Ponder had graduated from the Kentucky State Police training academy in January and was stationed at the state police post in Mayfield, the news release said.

State police said numerous law enforcement agencies, as well as helicopters and dogs were being used to help with search efforts in the rural, wooded area that has homes scattered about. Trooper Jay Thomas said there are numerous vacant summer homes in the area.

"We have a massive search going on right now with multiple agencies trying to locate the shooter," Thomas said.

Police closed a 9-mile section of the interstate while the search was being conducted.

Thomas said people who live in the area should watch for anything suspicious and call police immediately if they see the suspect.

"He is armed and dangerous," Thomas said.